As a little girl fond of 1,500-piece jigsaw puzzles, I used to fantasize that I could disappear into those impossibly lush and complex fields of flowers. Yesterday, I did, here outside the Litchfield Villa. The blue-shirted figure (whose puzzle pieces could be confused with the small chunk of blue sky) is Carmen, the prodigious and visionary volunteer gardener of this miraculous hillside along Prospect Park West.
When I researched the villa, I found no evidence that its gardens were ever this glorious even in its Gilded Age heyday. Grace Litchfield, the lady of the house, and her railroad baron husband Edwin, would surely be proud (although they may still resent eventually losing the mansion to the park that was built around it).
I asked Carmen if she had planted every one of these bulbs. "Oh yes," she answered. "It makes me feel alive!"
If I wax poetic, it's because today is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Here is one to pocket in honor of Carmen:
The Grower of Trees, the gardener, the man born to farming,
whose hands reach into the ground and sprout
to him the soil is a divine drug. He enters into death
yearly, and comes back rejoicing. He has seen the light lie down
in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn.
His thought passes along the row ends like a mole.
What miraculous seed has he swallowed
That the unending sentence of his love flows out of his mouth
Like a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water
Descending in the dark?
Wendell Berry, The Man Born to Farming